I will be backpacking with camping gear this July (3 season ultra lightweight tent, zero degree sleeping bag, all needed camping gear) and am an experienced backcountry hiker/camper. I'd like to sleep out under the stars (if skies are clear) or in my tent (if raining) high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley during my 3-4 day visit there en route from Bern/and France's Alsace. Would love information on whether backcountry camp areas exist on or near the many alpine hiking routes from Murren or Gimmelwald. If so, any info on protocol (advance reservations, restrictions, etc.) would be of tremendous help. I know there are campgrounds in the valleys - in the towns of Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken - but these are "car camping" sites with hostels, etc. nearby. I'm looking to go full-on backcountry for a few days when not in Switzerland's cities. Thanks!
From this forum, general talk on backcountry camping in Switzerland:
Maybe head up from Muerren, toward the Rotstuck Huette, and find somewhere up there. Nobody wants to see campers (sorry, been there with you) so stay well off the trail--and well away from the huette, definitely not in sight of the huette. Maybe eat at the huette (dinner, breakfast)?
This being said, and with no offense to you, have you considered what you will need to pack, and haul through an airport or two and possibly some trains, to camp backcountry in Switzerland? It can certainly be done it is just an incredible hassle. Just fyi, we have camped backcountry in Joshua Tree (after flying our gear out wrapped in saran wrap) and some other out-there national parks but never overseas.
Have you looked at the SAC-CAS hut system? We made that 'compromise' and never looked back :)
Thanks for the tip, Cabalist. I don't want to run afoul of any cultural or village norms, just would love to spend as much time out of doors while in the Swiss Alps as possible. I have considerable flexibility in where I go in the Swiss Alps as I am still in the early planning stages of my trip - do you know of any areas in the Swiss Alps (does not have to be in or even near the Lauterbrunnen Valley) where backcountry camping is permitted and not frowned upon?
I just amended my post.
It is pretty consistent in Switzerland as far as camping. Huetten do not like to see campers (they leave trash, don't buy supplies from the hut, don't pay for a night's lodging, etc.). Farmers, as long as there is NO damage, have never seemed to care the handful of times we have done it although one was very worried that we were the wrong kind of campers before seeing our child. I don't consider anywhere with a nearby farmer 'backcountry' though. Almost suburban in Switzerland, really.
At higher altitude (I would call this official backcountry) I do believe that you are allowed to pitch a 'bivouac'...but I don't have a source on this right now.
Check out SAC-CAS...really.
If you DO choose actual backcountry camping in the Alps think about buying all, or almost all, of your gear on the continent (France, Germany, Switzerland) and ship it home once you have finished with it. Or carry it home as check baggage. Treat the expense (and hassle of carrying it home) like you would souvenirs. Cool, gear-type, souvenirs.
By the way, Switzerland is expensive. A lot of gear can be bought used. Its like the Raclette 'heaters' I saw lined up (50+), used, in a Swiss thrift store. People with more money than me buy this stuff, use it for a week, and leave it behind.
Many thanks again for the thoughtful info. I've got all I need in terms of gear, and have been backcountry hiking and camping since I was 17. Not planning on bringing a camp stove, as I'll find picnic-type food to munch and stow during my travels through cities and villages. Also will eat at the huts you describe. I'll look into the huts for sleeping accommodations as well and definitely check out the SAC website.
Here is a small SAC brochure on the subject:
Basically it says wild camping may be tolerated above timberline, but only for one night in a given place, and only outside the designated forbidden zones like national parks and conservation areas.
The problem with the high meadows above Gimmelwald, on the way to Rotstockhütte, is that they are heavily used for grazing cattle, and thus liberally sprinkled with cow droppings. It was "interesting" just hiking through there. And definitely stay well out of sight of the hut itself. It is privately owned (not an SAC hut, at least when we were there) and they are very protective of their space. We were not allowed to use their tables for lunch, even though the five of us all bought beverages, and two bought food there----no outside food is allowed at all within their yard. A British couple got into a heated argument with the hut staff about this, and then behaved rather badly, depositing their trash in the water trough in the yard.
That is the PDF I was looking for. Thanks, Lola!
Also, any fenced area is questionable. That may seem like a 'duh' moment for some, but I wanted to mention it ;)
Thanks again for all this helpful info!